Here is how Mahmudur Rahman, successful engineer-business executive turned prime ministerial advisor turned anti-government editor arrested for his writing, describes his moment of freedom:
জেলগেটের বাইরে পা দেয়া মাত্র দূরে রাস্তায় অপেক্ষমাণ জনতা সমস্বরে গগনবিদারী চিত্কার করে উঠল। আমি আকাশের দিকে মুখ তুলে উচ্চারণ করলাম, শোকর আলহামদুলিল্লাহ্, আল্লাহু আকবর।
And that, dear reader, shows why he will not lead Bangladesh anytime soon.
Until the 1970s, Bangladesh’s polity was divided along two different concepts of identity, which were symbolised by two slogans — Joy Bangla and Allah Akbar. Today’s Bangladesh is not divided along those camps.
Today, we have a Joy Bangabandhu camp, which supplants the Joy Bangla and Allah Akbar with a cult of personality around Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This is the Hasina synthesis, which is articulated in the 15th Amendment, and is the Awami League is the party of Joy Bangabandhu. Needless to say, the League will be led by Mujib’s family for a long while yet.
Against this, there is the Bangladesh Zindabad party, which is a synthesis of Allah Akbar and Joy Bangla. This is the Zia synthesis, articulated in the 5th Amendment, and mainly defended by his BNP, though HM Ershad and Moeen U Ahmed tried to grab this at times.
Mahmudur Rahman could have had a plausible claim to win the leadership of the Bangladesh Zindabad party. Sure, under him this would have a bit more Allah Akbar than was the case under Zia. But it would still have to be a Bangladesh Zindabad party.
But tellingly, Mahmud did not shout Bangladesh Zindabad.
Bangladeshi mainstream is divided between Joy Bangabandhu and Bangladesh Zindabad. Mahmudur Rahman cannot replace either of these with Allah Akbar.